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Australia Makes Asian Language Learning a Priority

AussieNeil Re:Indonesian, Korean and french (230 comments)

Being able to speak Mandarin didn't help Australia's ex Prime Minister!

about a year and a half ago

TSMC To Spend $10B Building Factory for 450mm Wafers

AussieNeil Re:How about (104 comments)

Yes it rather negates the savings of getting say 10% more wafers out of a boule when you lose maybe 20% more in production. Post diffusion, once a wafer shatters (the usual way fragile manifests itself), you are pretty well limited to manual processing of the larger wafer fragments if that is possible. It is rather embarrasing to admit that you've lost your year's production of one particular IC batch because your one wafer shattered. :)

It would be nice to see monocrystalline silicon solar panels come down dramatically in price when 450mm wafers are used though...

more than 2 years ago

TSMC To Spend $10B Building Factory for 450mm Wafers

AussieNeil Re:How about (104 comments)

The process is all about creating large crystals of extremely high and tightly controlled purity. You do not want any additional source of contamination. If you look at tested wafers, you'll observe that the yield is lower around the wafer edge due to the effect of edge impurities and edge stresses.

more than 2 years ago

TSMC To Spend $10B Building Factory for 450mm Wafers

AussieNeil Re:How about (104 comments)

...Thinner wafers may also get more out of each boule...

Going to thinner wafers is very difficult as the wafers become more fragile and are also more likely to warp during processing.

more than 2 years ago

Stem Cells Curing Burn-Induced Blindness

AussieNeil Re:It doesn't always work... (54 comments)

Functional MRI scanning has shown that areas of the brain normally involved in vision processing has been reallocated in such individuals.

Coincidentally, I've just finished reading a great book on this very subject: "Crashing Through: A True Story of Risk, Adventure, and the Man Who Dared to See", by Robert Kurdson. He describes Mike May's frustrations with not being able to read or process shadows to determine 3D information after having his sight restored, decades after losing it due to corneal scarring from chemical burns when he was 3 years old. Mike's restored vision - due to stem cell and corneal transplants, gave him better than average vision, but Mike found it extremely hard work to read or extract depth information from shadows. His ability to detect motion was excellent however. Curiously, Mike isn't fooled by optical illusions that take us in.

Unfortunately, depression has been found to be extremely common in people that have had their sight restored after a long period without it - most likely due to the frustrations of not being able to fully use their restored vision.

Mike needed donor stem cells and cornea, whereas this improved technique uses the patients', thus avoiding the risks associated with taking anti-rejection medication for life. Now if only we can find a way to restore brain function! That would be an incredible breakthrough helping far more people than those assisted by this new technique and would hopefully help with the depression risk. There are some interesting references in the above book, which include the article by Oliver Sacks referenced above.

more than 4 years ago

CSIRO Sues US Carriers Over Wi-Fi Patent

AussieNeil Re:CSIRO are still good guys (308 comments)

Given Australia's population compared to the world market, we will still come out in front paying for the patent component of hardware made in the USA. Hopefully that means the CSIRO and anyone that benefits from their research and not just a few lawyers. I doubt anyone minds paying a small amount for the benefit of using this patent. If you don't want to pay the patent 'tax', just use network cable - security is better too.

The CSIRO, like many research facilities, has been under increasing pressure over the last decade or so to rely on self funding by generating and patenting IP thus reducing demand on the public purse.

more than 4 years ago

Australian Schools To Teach Intelligent Design

AussieNeil Life, The Universe and Information Theory (714 comments)

The Anthropomorphic Principle and Information Theory with respect to live haven't had much mention here. The sheer complexity of cellular life is such that we still don't understand how it could have come into existence via evolution. Probability is so much against it that some scientists have proposed life arose elsewhere than Earth and we got infected (doesn't solve the problem, just shifts it outside where we can easily study it). Other scientists have suggested cells arose from another platform such as clay.

Then there is the problem of natural selection which selects for a reduced level of information - it doesn't add information. That has to come from mutations from radiation or stealing genes from other life (which again shifts the problem without solving it).

Slashdot readers have a far better appreciation than most of what it takes to create something that performs a useful function. Given the majority here belief in Evolution, I'm surprised no developers have suggested that they just write one program that will naturally select what the customer wants and let it run on a supercomputer for a while to spit out the solution. Oh, perhaps that's because it requires Intelligent Design to write that program...

more than 4 years ago

Australian Schools To Teach Intelligent Design

AussieNeil Re:Double-you tee eff, mate (714 comments)

A Federal election is likely to be called any time between August and November this year. Both the main party leaders claim their Christian faith is very important to them. (Note however that espousing Christian ideals in Australian politics is far less important to the success of political parties than it is in the USA.)

Queensland is the third largest state by population and has a independent election cycle from the federal elections. The last state election was last year and the next can be called any time - but must be called by 2012.

In Australia, minor parties are becoming increasingly important for the governing parties to get their legislation through the review house where it exists (Queensland doesn't have one). Christian and Green parties are significant minor parties federally and in most states.

more than 4 years ago

EU Conducts Test Flights To Assess Impact of Volcanic Ash On Aircraft

AussieNeil Re:Goodness, Who To Believe... (410 comments)

Given prop craft are less affected, perhaps it is time to bring back Zeppelins!

more than 4 years ago

Microbe Mat the Size of Greece Discovered In the Sea

AussieNeil Re:Don't worry... (135 comments)

Someone has been reading "Wang's Carpets" by Greg Egan

more than 4 years ago

Do Car Safety Problems Come From Outer Space?

AussieNeil Re:Why they tell you to turn off your phone... (437 comments)

This was indeed a real problem in the late 70's, particularly for DRAM chips and only ceased to be a problem when manufacturers tightened up on the allowable level of impurities in materials near the memory chips, such as the encapsulating plastics and the chip coatings used within ceramic ICs. Many elements have naturally occurring isotopes that are radioactive and DRAM errors are dependent on the concentration of these within materials surrounding the memory chip and the radioactive decay method. Back then of course we had atmospheric atomic testing and straw packing material was a good way to capture atmospheric fallout (and a good way to get fogged photographic film too). When you consider the effect of Moore's Law on the size of the capacitor used within the DRAM over the last 30 years (the bit flip is caused by the radioactive decay particle discharging this capacitor) and the fact we can't make perfectly pure materials at an economic cost, it is surprising that this problem is not more obvious now. I suspect software bugs are more likely to be the cause however.

more than 4 years ago



Aust Parliamentary Committee No to Anti-Copy Treaty

AussieNeil AussieNeil writes  |  more than 2 years ago

AussieNeil (1757216) writes "It is rare that Australia's federal parliamentary parties agree on anything, but yesterday, 27th June, the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, comprised of Labor, Green and Coalition members, unanimously recommended that Australia not ratify an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The Federal Trade Minister, Craig Emerson, previously signed this international treaty "which will help the fight against the piracy and counterfeiting of artistic, scientific and industrial endeavour" on the 1st of October in Tokyo last year. Submissions from the Copyright Agency Limited, the Australian Copyright Council and a joint submission from ARIA, MIPI, AIR and AMRA (jointly representing Australian recording artists, musicians, performers, composers, music publishers, record companies and music retailers), recommended that the Australian Federal Parliament ratify the treaty. Alphapharm, Australia’s leading supplier of prescription medicines to the Government-subsidised Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), recommended Australia NOT ratify the treaty.

The parliamentary committee found that the wording of the treaty was vague with terms such as "aiding and abetting", "piracy", "counterfeiting" and "intellectual property" dangerously open-ended. Mr Thomson, the committee chairman said, "We should also have regard to what is going on overseas. There is a rebellion in Europe. Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Poland are all putting the thing on hold. There was a vote in the European Parliament's international trade committee last week in which AFTA went down 19 to 12. Even the US has not ratified it." Greens senator Scott Ludlam said the treaty seemed to be a foundation agreement for a serious crackdown on file sharing.

The Age article

Australia to sign Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)

Australian Foreign Affairs defends ACTA (March 2012), dismissing criticism that Australia's ratification of (ACTA) will lead to internet service providers being copyright police

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties devoted a full chapter to the vagueness of terms in the treaty

Transcripts of evidence from public hearings into ACTA are available from:

Submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties on ACTA can be viewed by searching for "ACTA submission" on the Parliament of Australia's website: parlinfo.aph.gov.au."

Nearly Free Computing

AussieNeil AussieNeil writes  |  more than 4 years ago

AussieNeil (1757216) writes "If IBM had adopted Unix for their Personal Computer and supported Open Source so *nix desktops were the now the norm, how hard would it be to convince the population to switch to Microsoft Windows? In Unbuntu on a Dime — The Path to Low-Cost Computing, James Kelly shows how easy it is to build a computer and install a complete software suite for US$200 excluding monitor, keyboard and mouse. You can't even buy the Operating System and Anti-malware protection for Microsoft Windows for that, let alone have any money left over for hardware and productivity software! Then when you install the software, you have the paradigm of having to restart the computer to complete software installation and you have to learn how to practice safe computing while budgeting for annual anti-malware software license renewals!

Alternate histories aside, Ubuntu on a Dime is a tribute both to the skills of the author and to the decades of effort by those that have developed user friendly software and hardware, so that this 280 page book gives anyone with a reasonable level of self confidence the recipe to build their own computer, install all the software needed for common activities and quickly become productive.

James Kelly, spends just thirty pages in the first chapter explaining how to purchase the required computer parts and assemble a Ubuntu- PC or "U-PC" computer and does it in a relaxed, easy to follow style. Mind, the task is simplified by chosing a motherboard with integrated sound and video, but that is exactly what you'll find in the standard corporate office PC. (Personally, I would have recommend purchasing a SATA hard drive to avoid the not touched on Master/Slave complications of using a shared IDE cable for the hard drive and CD/DVD drive.) The book is illustrated throughout with frequent, excellent screen shots as the author steps you through hardware assembly, then operating system and application installation, configuration and use.

In chapter 2, the author explains how to install the Ubuntu Operating System and keep it updated. Wisely, he has chosen the Long Term Supported 8.04 version, but has omitted mention of the different Ubuntu support periods. He has also missed an opportunity here to expand on the growing list of Ubuntu variants, in particular Kubuntu, which I would see as an easier migration choice for those familiar with Microsoft Windows.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to a definition of what the author means by "free software" and covers the costs (including the relevant security risk costs) associated with the four software categories; Pay-to-Use, Open Source, Cloud Computing and Freeware. The remaining 9 chapters look at how to use free software — software either included in the default Ubuntu installation, or available via cloud computing, to complete common computing tasks.

In chapter 4, email using Evolution is covered and word processing, spreadsheets and presentations using the Open Office suite is covered in chapters 5 to 7. The Cloud Computing Google Docs Office Suite alternative, with the advantages of everywhere access to your documents and collaborative working is covered in chapter 11. Web browsing using Firefox is covered in chapter 9, with most of the chapter dedicated to finding and installing useful add-ons. Google gets another couple of chapters when photo management with Picasa is covered in chapter 8 and Google Email and Calendar configuration and use are explained in chapter 10. The last chapter looks at a few other useful applications found in Ubuntu; Calculator, Text Editor, Notes, Disk Burning, Movie Playing and Music Playing. The three appendices cover the computer parts list, three ways to obtain an installation disk for Ubuntu and finally a bibliography of web sites, books and must have apps so you can extend the use of your new Ubuntu PC. The 9 page index is fairly comprehensive, considering the wealth of illustrations throughout the book.

I liked this book because it covered tasks seen daunting by many (PC building, Operating System and software installation, configuration and upgrading) in an light, easy to follow manner, supported with excellent illustrations. Further, the author covers a lot of ground without overwhelming the reader, taking you to a level where you can start using your computer productively and showing you how to use help files and on-line resources to extend your use of your excellent hand-built investment. While extolling the benefits of Open Source software, he hasn't labored the point. Vendor lock-in costs associated with proprietary office suites aren't mentioned, nor are the lower security risks associated with Open Source usage.

If you are looking for a way to reduce your computing costs, or know someone that would appreciate a gift that can help them achieve this, then Ubuntu on a Dime is well worth considering — particularly for anyone that gets satisfaction from learning via do-it-yourself."


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